I’ve been looking forward to seeing The Kids Are All Right. The leading trio are difficult to resist. In particular, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo have starred in three of my favourite films, Shipping News, Far From Heaven, Zodiac, and I loved Annette Bening in The American President. In The Kids Are All Right we have a film in which two talented and charismatic actresses are given rein to lead in a story of love and family and, as a female member of the audience, it made for an emotional although rather painful viewing experience.
The film tells the story of a lesbian couple together for twenty years, Jules and Nic, who each had a child with the same spermdonor. When daughter Joni (Mia Wasikowska) reaches 18, she seeks out donor Paul (Mark Ruffalo) to please her younger brother Laser (Josh Hutcherson). Paul, a perpetual bachelor and restaurateur, has his life turned about when he meets Joni and Laser and their mothers. He falls for the family and threatens to split it apart.
The heart of the film is about the relationship between Nic and Jules. Nic is a successful doctor whereas Jules is still looking for her own role and has just set up a business as a landscape gardener. The whole film permeates with food, flowers, fertility. But, when Joni and Laser meet their biological father, Nic feels under threat. She is the provider, Jules has been the wife and now their children are looking outside that unit for something more. Daughter Joni reaches 18 and, as for any family, this creates an uncertain and unsettling time of barriers being threatened and rules being challenged. You might not want your daughter to ride pillion on a motorbike, but when she reaches adulthood and college beckons, there’s not too much you can do about it.
Director and writer Lisa Cholodenko does an excellent job of understanding and presenting the deeper feelings of Nic, Jules and Paul. On the surface all is well and the growing pains of Joni and Laser seem under control but when Paul is thrown into the mix everything shifts. Mark Ruffalo makes for a sexy, relaxed and easily pleased Paul and it’s no surprise that the family falls for him. However he falls just as hard but fails to understand what it is he’s falling in to. One hopes that he has learned some lessons to help him on the climb out.
There are some difficulties in the film, and one moment in particular concerning Jules’ gardener, that don’t ring true but generally this is an involving story about a family and a marriage that demonstrates that it’s not always easy to make things work, but it’s well worth the effort.